Human beings are a species to be found in all save the most uninhabitable corners of the world. Several hundred thousand years ago, homo sapiens had left its origins in Africa to discover and populate foreign lands in Asia, Oceania and Europe. Ever since, humans have restlessly moved around the globe, exploring even the remotest places. Perhaps homo sapiens should more aptly be called homo peregrinus.
Boston 1847: They crawled out of the ship's hull, unable to walk, more dead than alive, victims of the Great Potato Famine. People on the quay gave them water and food, and some offered to host them in the basements of their homes. But others treated them badly, spitting on those destitute and smelly refugees, many of them only speaking a weird language, Gaelic.
The descendants of these Irish immigrants include some of the most famous Americans from John F. Kennedy to Henry Ford and Walt Disney.
Prehistory was characterized by numerous waves of human migrations, from Africa to Spitsbergen and Easter Island, from the Bering Strait to Tierra del Fuego. History's first mass movement was prompted by the rise of the Roman Empire, first by military expansion, secondly by people from the periphery moving toward the centers of the empire and, in the end, occupying them.
The impact of this massive immigration can be observed by looking at the effigies of the emperors themselves. Among them were a Syrian, a Spaniard, a Numidian and an Arab. Not to speak of the later Germanic and Greek emperors.
Historic migrations heavily changed the composition of populations. In the Middle Ages, Greece was invaded by Romanians and Albanians to the extent that the modern Greek word for peasant is "vlachos", the Walachian. At a global level the heaviest change came during the age of colonization which saw Europeans settle and occupy North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Siberia. Slavery and indentured labor shifted millions from L'île de Gorée to Callao, from Cochin to Trinidad.
In historical analogy, if the age of colonization corresponded roughly to the period of military expansion of the Roman empire, we are now experiencing the second part, i.e. the movement of people from the periphery to the centers. Like Rome and Constantinople attracted Gauls and Britons, Persians and Syrians, North America, Europe and Australia are now the centers of attraction in a Europeanized world. All high-income countries are now absorbing immigrants with the exception of Japan which fiercely maintains its insular population, although it is aging and shrinking.
Economic globalization is currently a fashionable topic. Less attention is devoted to its corollary, the human globalization. The expatriate worker, diplomat, student or pensioner is an icon of the modern world, as is the refugee drowning in the Mediterranean or in the Rio Grande. No German dentist can hope to get rich without a certificate from an American university. Indian pharmacists, Iraqi hairdressers, Moroccan pickpockets, Ethiopian runners, Syrian snipers, Persian rug dealers are as well known as Korean scientists, Indian philosophers and Latin American poets. In a shrinking world, more people are moving, and they move faster than ever.
They change the demographics. Some Eastern European countries experience shrinking populations because so many working age people have moved to prosperous western Europe. Western European populations are stabilized by immigration as happened in Rome during the last centuries of the empire.
Immigrants are always greeted with ambivalent and often hostile feelings. Rarely, invaders are offered friendship as happened to the Britons in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1610, when a girl nicknamed Pocahontas convinced her father, Paramount Chief Powhatan, to save the settlers from poor harvest failure, lack of farming skills and famine. The policies of all immigration countries (except Israel and perhaps Canada) are models of ambivalence.
The United States is proud to continue being an immigration country with a quickly growing population. Yet, many European Americans (aka Caucasians) and to some extent also African Americans fear the approaching year 2040 when the so-called minorities will become the majority, and in a range of Southern states Spanish will later become the prevailing native language.
This ambivalence causes a highly emotional and unstable immigration policy of stop and go style. However, no matter which policies are pursued in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California, migrants always find ways of getting in. Every loophole is quickly discovered. When President Barack Obama (himself a result of immigration) decided not to return unaccompanied minors, some 60,000 single children and teens streamed across the border in 2014 to the despair of overwhelmed border county officials and citizens. Republicans are furious. Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio said: "There is no right to illegally immigrate anywhere in the world.”
Australia currently refuses to admit any boat people to the mainland. They are processed on islands such as Christmas Island and Nauru and either returned or kept forever on the islands.
According to urban anthropologist and ethologist Frank Salter, immigration is creating "ethnic stratification" in Australian society. Salter asserts: "Aboriginal Australians remain an economic underclass and some immigrant communities show high levels of unemployment. Anglo Australians, still almost 70 percent of the population, are presently being displaced disproportionately in the professions and in senior managerial positions by Asian immigrants and their children. The situation is dramatic at selective schools which are the high road to university and the professions". (Wikipedia)
The European quandary
Europe is torn between the desire to treat illegal immigrants in a decent and human way, and the wish to keep them out. Some countries accept large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, especially Sweden and Germany, whereas others, such as Croatia, Czech Republic and Romania flatly refuse to accept any refugees. Poland, Slovakia and Hungary would reluctantly admit refugees on a case by case basis.
Since it is impossible to find a common denominator for a European immigration policy, individual countries are pursuing their national interests which, in most cases, mean that governments are obeying to the xenophobic instincts of their electorate, regardless of the suffering of the (non-voting) illegals.
Although this policy can prove quite successful in island countries, as exemplified by Japan and Australia -- it will be difficult to pursue elsewhere, especially in Europe with its thousands of miles of land and sea borders.
Demographically speaking, Europe resembles a village which on two sides is overshadowed by high-risers and skyscrapers. The village consists of small houses, the largest one counting a mere 82 million people. The high-risers bordering Europe in the South and Southeast are still growing: Turkey is approaching 100 million inhabitants, Egypt is moving fast toward 120 million, Iran toward 100 million, the Maghreb countries approaching another 120 million. And behind them in the second row of buildings skyscrapers are shooting up: Sub-Saharan Africa is multiplying toward 2 billion in 2050, the Indian subcontinent to 2.3 billion, according to the latest United Nations projections..
From the roofs of these teeming high risers and skyscrapers people are looking down on Europe. What they are seeing appears like paradise to them. Peaceful countries with green fields and forests, plenty of water, well kept towns and cities, shopping malls, paved roads and bullet trains, a sweet Disneyland populated by a mere half billion well fed people who do not want to accommodate another few hundred million willing to take the plane, jump the fence or swim to Europe's shores.
Let us not fool ourselves: Europe's basic instinct is to build dykes against the rising human flood while commiserating with the suffering these dykes cause. Crocodile's tears. For demographic reasons alone -- excluding wars, oppression and crises of all kinds -- the human flood will continue to rise, year after year. Europe will most probably spend more and more millions to raise the dykes, build fences and send its navies to deter and discourage boat people.
But due to its long and porous borders, more and more immigrants will succeed getting in, legally or clandestinely. In the long run, Europe's immigration policy, no matter how it is defined, will fail. The children and grandchildren of the immigrants, being born Europeans, will exert political pressure on governments to accept more Arabs, more Africans, more Asians.
Europe will begin to resemble the USA of today. Half or more of the leading university scientists will be foreign born. Outside big cities most physicians and hospital staff will be Asians or Latinos. Every major city will have quarters for Arabs, Turks, sub-Saharan Africans and Latinos, perhaps even a small Chinatown. Social disparities will increase. The poorest decile of the population will swell with wetbacks, illegals who just made it across the Mediterranean or scaled the fences.
Turkey shows what happens if refugees are not allowed to seek work and receive no support from the government: hundreds of thousands of Syrians are currently reduced to begging and camping in abandoned houses or under bridges, especially in the cities. Some are surviving on petty crime, prostitution, underpaid illegal work and boardwalk trade. Almost 300,000 Syrian children cannot attend school for lack of money; parents prefer them to work.
Understandably, the local population is less than happy. Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population worldwide, 2 million Syrians. In cities close to the border the number of divorces has increased because married men had unregistered marriages with Syrian women. Local people fear terrorist attacks because of reduced security.
Many of the refugees do not plan to return to Syria for which they see no rebuilding and no future without repression either by President Assad or by religious fanatics. Although Turkey accepted the refugees under the assumption that they were victims of the common enemy Bashar al-Assad, and because they are Sunni Muslims like most Turks, only rich immigrants who can buy real estate or set up a business have a chance of being fully welcomed.
The Turkish example shows what European countries can expect to experience if the influx of refugees continues to rise as quickly as it does now. Penniless immigrants are likely to accept any work well below the minimum wage stipulated in the country. They will need free public health care. They will try to import their families and burden the school system with their numerous children.
In Italy, the social strain of new immigrant poverty is already visible in the cities. Scores of Bengali, Pakistani and North African windshield wipers are attacking cars at traffic lights. African handbag peddlers and Bengali umbrella vendors are pursuing tourists wherever they step out of their tour buses. Bengalis sell padlocks to lovers on the Milvian bridge. Chinese euro stores and souvenir shops have eliminated almost all Italian competition. They are now so numerous that some even cannibalize each other.
Because refugees are non-Europeans and most of them non-Christians, they are lacking the strong bond of neighborhood and religion that facilitated acceptance of Syrians in Turkey. Refugees from Austria, Switzerland or France would certainly be more welcome in Germany than Syrians or Eritreans although, on the whole, Germany proves remarkably hospitable to the current wave of refugees.
However, the Turkish experience is in only of limited validity in relation to Europe. Like Jordan and Lebanon, Turkey is no "dream country" for refugees from Syria or Iraq or passers-through from Afghanistan and South Asia on their way to Europe. Most refugees would eventually leave Turkey if neighboring countries offer prospects of peace and development.
Dream country Europe
Europe is by definition the "dream country" and most immigrants desire to stay permanently or will postpone their plan to return long enough to end up as Europeans.
Under the special conditions prevailing in Europe, the word "integration" of immigrants acquires a special significance. There are two separate reasons why European governments cannot simply "admit and forget" refugees, as Turkey did. Humanitarian concerns and empathy rule that the country admitting a destitute, desperate and possibly traumatized refugee must take care of him of her until the immigrant can take care of him- or herself psychologically and economically.
Apart from the humanitarian motivation there are also practical and social reasons for governments to help refugees: in order to avoid Turkey's problems with begging, homelessness, prostitution and public fears of terrorism and crime.
Considering the rapidly rising numbers of boat people arriving, the Mediterranean looks to become the world's main illegal immigration highway dwarfing even the Mexico/US border. With the gradual resurrection of the Mare Nostrum campaign Europe is opening its door to the hundreds of thousands waiting on Libya's and other North African beaches. It sends a signal deep into Africa and the Middle East that the drowning of thousands has not been a useless sacrifice.
In fact, the sea as the ultimate, most cruel fence to fend off migrants, proved not only to be a surprisingly porous border but to become a secret ally of the migrants forcing Europe to open the gate by sending ships to ferry the boat people to their planned destination. perhaps not the right country but at least to Europe.
For Europe, this new development means it should prepare for a mass assault of immigrants from the South and Southeast to a tune not seen since the late days of the Arab invasion during the Middle Ages. If current trends prevail, the coming decades will change the face of the European population. It will also strain the economy because the newcomers will need massive assistance before becoming viable citizens.
The immigrants will form a new population strata filling low level and menial jobs or academic positions which do not require government certification. Italy's example shows that Asians and to a lesser extent Arabs replace local staff in retail business, transport, cleaning and domestic service. Africans are mainly working in agriculture. Existing minimum wages are widely ignored and governments will hesitate to police them in order to avoid creating jobless foreigners requiring public support.
There can be little doubt that the extremely high youth unemployment rates prevailing in southern Europe are partly a result of competition by immigrants who take the learning-by-doing jobs and are often more skilled and harder working than local youths.
Mass immigration will counter the future trend toward smart machines and robots replacing human work. For a gas station it might be more profitable to operate a car wash with half a dozen immigrants instead of investing in an expensive drive-thru tunnel. Customers also appreciate the human service and are willing to tip which reduces the pressure on the station's owner to pay adequate wages.
Still, the trend toward human replacement by software and robots -- allegedly one third of all jobs will have disappeared by 2025 -- combined with competition by increasingly better trained immigrants is likely to eliminate the work millions of Europeans are now relying on. Governments should expect chronic unemployment to creep into social strata hitherto considered safe and protected.
The other migrants
Italian authorities are currently looking for more "hubs", buildings such as unused army barracks which could serve to accommodate freshly arrived boat people, give them medical treatment and process their asylum requests. While Europe is scrambling to deal with arrivals vastly exceeding expectations, no thought is devoted to the other migrants: the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, who failed to make it. Those who tried to leave Eritrea and were apprehended by police, punished and condemned to virtually lifetime military service. Those who were captured by criminal Beduin tribes in Sudan or Sinai, tortured and made to phone their relatives at home to pay ransom, once, twice perhaps. Those who managed to leave Syria or Iraq and went from one European Consulate to another to apply for visa, in vain. Those who are selling their organs to raise money for the coyotes, the smugglers. Those who on their way through the desert were robbed once, twice, three times of all their belongings, raped, enslaved, beaten, left to die by the wayside. Those who are prey of gangsters and madmen in Libya, those who are sold to smugglers by a criminal "government" in Tripolis, and eventually those who drown in the Mediterranean.
No names, no numbers, no records.
Heinrich von Loesch